By Dian Hasan | September 28, 2010
“Water is the source of life.” That’s a given that we all know. And we also know that countless (make that billions!) of people today still don’t have access to clean water. And that said, water is also the fundamental need on which other solutions rests: food production and supply, illness and disease prevention, poverty alleviation and eradication, access to education, gender equality, child labor prevention… in short: EVERYTHING!
To put this into perspective, stats and figures always help in visualizing the sheer magnitude of the global water problem. Here’s a look at an “in-your-face” reality check (taken from Charity:Water, a non-for-profit organization seeking to help alleviate the world’s water problem).
Right now, as we speak, almost 1 billion people on the planet don’t have access to clean, safe drinking water. That’s 1 in 8 of us. ~ Charity Water
ON HEALTH & SANITATION:
Unsafe water and lack of basic sanitation cause 80% of diseases and kill more people every year than all forms of violence, including war. Children are especially vulnerable, as their bodies aren’t strong enough to fight diarrhea, dysentery and other illnesses
90% of the 42,000 deaths that occur every week from unsafe water and unhygienic living conditions are to children under five years old. Many of these diseases are preventable. The UN predicts that one tenth of the global disease burden can be prevented simply by improving water supply and sanitation.
ON WOMEN & CHILDREN:
In Africa alone, people spend 40 billion hours every year just walking for water. Women and children usually bear the burden of water collection, walking miles to the nearest source, which is unprotected and likely to make them sick.
A clean water project nearby means more than safe drinking water to women and children in developing nations; it means time, freedom and incentive to change their communities.
ON ECONOMIES & COMMUNITIES:
Water contributes to poverty alleviation in many ways – through sanitation services, water supply, affordable food and enhanced resilience of poor communities to disease, climate shocks and environmental degradation. ~ 3rd UN World Water Development Report, 2009
In Africa alone, the overall economic loss due to lack of safe water and sanitation is $28 billion, or about 5% of GDP. In areas where gathering water is impossible, small-scale private water distributors charge full market prices, forcing the poorest households to spend up to 11% of their income on life’s most basic need. Even this water is most likely contaminated if it has been collected from unprotected rivers or ponds.
ON FOOD SUPPLY:
Feeding our world takes up to 90% of our freshwater withdrawals but many people in developing nations still don’t have access to enough water for irrigation.
When a water project is built in a community, members can often use the new water source to grow small gardens near their homes and secure their own food supply. Self-sufficient households are less affected by external conflict, famine or inadequate government services.
HOPE TRANLSATED INTO ACTION & RESULTS:
Every $1 invested in improved water access and sanitation yields an average of $12 in economic returns, depending on the project.
Even in regions prone to natural disasters, water infrastructure has proven to be a smart investment, sometimes reducing flood damage or disease rates among survivors. Clean water transforms lives, communities and generations — and at a surprisingly low cost. Just $20 can provide clean water for one person for 20 years.